I just heard that civil rights champion Reverend Joseph Lowery died yesterday at age 98.
We can celebrate this great man for many reasons. I celebrate him for the words he spoke from the United States Capitol in benediction of the Inauguration of this century’s greatest President, Barack Obama. His soulful prayer in subfreezing sunshine made me, an avowed atheist, say Amen! at the wheel of my own icy Jeep as I drove to town from the lake. Pastor Lowery’s prayer was that good—the best prayer I’ve ever heard, a model of, if you’ve got to pray in public, what a public prayer should say and do.
Reread the full transcript in my 2009 blog post. Rewatch that great prayer below, and think about the words that ring true, now and forever, for any nation striving to fulfill its duty to goodness in times of great trouble:
…For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.
…We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.
Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream [Rev. Joseph Lowery, Inaugural benediction, Washington, DC, 2009.01.20].
Do justice. Love mercy. Amen.